Facebook, AdWords, Blogs, Instagram, Email Marketing - you’ve probably tried them all, and when faced with the challenge of growing your monthly sales yet again, you might be wondering what’s something new you can do when it comes to e-commerce marketing.

One creative marketing idea we’d like to share with you in today’s post is contests. When implemented well, hosting contests is a fun, yet powerful way online sellers can grow sales and build brand awareness. It often leads to high Marketing ROI, especially since the cost required is completely up to you - you can put in as much or as little as you want, as long as the prize is attractive enough to entice people to join the contest.

To bring it to life, we’ve interviewed Thomas, CEO of Ship&co as well as Bento&co. Bento&co is a Kyoto-based online shop selling Bento boxes and kitchenware. Since 2009, Bento&co has been hosting a contest every year, called the International Chef Bento Contest, with much success.

Question: Thomas, tell us a little more about Bento&co’s International Chef Bento Contest

Thomas: International Chef Bento Contest is a contest we’ve started since 10 years ago. This contest is open to anyone to participate, and every year, we choose a different theme. Based on the theme, we ask participants to submit two photos of the Bento they created. From the pool of participants, we select two grand winners every year. One winner from outside Japan wins a return flight to Japan, and one winner from within Japan wins a night’s stay at a luxury hotel in Kyoto and dinner with our team. We also select 10 finalists based on audience votes, and each wins a merchandise. Everyone else who participated also get 10% discount on their next purchase.

Japan Grand Winner, from 2018 “Before / After” theme
International Grand winner, from 2018 “Before / After” theme

Question: Why has Bento&co been organizing these contests every year?

Thomas: Well firstly, it’s been a lot of fun - both for us, and also for our participants. And secondly, hosting the Chef Bento contest has been a very effective way to generate a lot of buzz and excitement around our brand. The contest receives 200-300 entries every year, with lots of engagement on social media. Last year we had more than 7000 reach and 1500 engagement on Facebook alone, and we received more than 3000 votes to pick our top 10 finalists. We also get a lot of extra publicity through influencers that we partner with, who are excited to share about the event. The benefits from the contest continues after the event too. Through the contest, we get to build relationships with new customers, and also start re-engaging with existing customers. Another perk is that the great collection of content from all the photos received can be shared throughout the year on social as well.

Question: Are there any tips you could share on how to host a successful contest?

Thomas: Ofcourse! A few things that comes top of mind:

Firstly, make sure to have a great prize that will attract many people to participate.

Secondly, think carefully about the theme of your contest. Make sure it’s simple enough for the audience to understand and participate, and at the same time, be clear and prescriptive. For us, the noodle theme was a success as it was very relatable and easy to make, regardless of which country you’re from or even if you’re a vegetarian. On the other hand, another theme we had, of using 7 ingredients was not as successful because it was too restrictive.

Thirdly, think about the contest period. Don’t choose periods when you know everyone will be tied up, for example, public holidays. Including weekends is a must to make sure participants will have time to spend on the contest.

Lastly, think about a way to amplify your marketing reach. One extremely effective way is to partner with influencers who can talk about your contest.

Question: Thanks, Thomas! Any final words?

Thomas: Don’t forget to enjoy the process! Contest is all about the fun element - for you as the organizer, and for your audience as the participants. And for those of you who are interested in cooking, do check out Bento&co’s Chef Bento contest for this year - it’s open now till 13th of next month.